Queueing at the bar and stopping for an impromptu pint could be a thing of the past, according to plans being developed by the New World Trading Company for opening up after the coronavirus lockdown.
Speaking on a webinar yesterday on post-Covid planning run by HR tech firm Harri, Natasha Waterfield, the bar operator's HR director, said a number of solutions had been explored including the end of queuing at the bar.
"We're rolling out technology that we've always stayed away from in the past because we're a people business," she said.
"How do you keep the experience and use technology to support the experience? We'll have to embrace delivery. Why will customers want to sit miles apart when people are in face masks? What kind of experience does that give? People can create a better experience at home."
Waterfield said Oast House in Spinningfields, Manchester, would be the first of the company's 26 sites to open in July.
"We've been running constant scenarios based on size, footfall and the site. We've categorised sites based on size and will phase openings. We need to be realistic; if we're not going to break even, there'll be no point in opening. We need 70% capacity to break even. Cardiff is huge and can open 65% capacity and still not break even. Sites that can't break even will stay closed. It will be booking only throughout."
The webinar's panellists, which also included Burger King CEO Alasdair Murdock, Pizza Pilgrims operations director Gavin Smith and the Student Hotel group F&B director Craig Cunningham, agreed staff safety and customer confidence was a priority.
"Plans have changed three times in three weeks and you have to balance what is possible and what is practical with what must happen," said Smith.
"I looked through the eyes of a guest at how you approach a restaurant, use the toilet and interact with staff. Back of house, how you receive deliveries and how the table is sanitised. Not in spacesuits but in a sterile environment. We're focused on how to be safe."
Smith said increased delivery prices and holistic conversations with landlords were key to bringing the casual dining sector back from the "knife edge" it has been on for a number of years.
Murdoch, meanwhile, said Burger King currently had 50 sites open and by the end of May would have one open in every city.
"An inescapable truth is we need to get people off furlough and back out to work," he said. "There will be people who are taking advantage. You have to be firm and get people back when you can."
You need to create an account to read this article. It's free and only requires a few basic details.
Already subscribed? Log In